Tag Archives: worst sinner

How God feels about sinners…even the worst ones!

31 Jan

Image result for how god feels about you

Can God save the worst sinner ever?  Would he want to?  You and I might not feel like the worst sinners ever in history, but we can often feel pretty guilty about our bad choices.  In the middle of the guilt, we wonder, “How does God feel about us when we have screwed up?”

As I mentioned last week in the intro post, our continuing study in 1st Timothy brings us to chapter 1, verses 12-17.  In that section, the writer of this letter, Paul, declares that he was the worst sinner.  He calls himself a blasphemer and persecutor, a man who arrogantly insulted God.  If you want, you can read all about it in Acts 7-9.  Paul is not exaggerating.  He was part of the same religious establishment that opposed Jesus, and now a few years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, Paul was leading the charge to round up Jesus’ followers and crush their movement.

Why wouldn’t God just eliminate Paul?  Instead, Paul tells us in 1st Timothy 1:12-17 that God considered Paul faithful.  Faithful?  That seems incredulous.  How could God see Paul as faithful when Paul was on the brink of destroying God’s new movement to save the world?  The reason is that while Paul had not placed his faith in Jesus, Paul was very passionate about what he considered to be the truth about God, the Old Covenant that God had with Israel.  Therefore Paul considered the Christians a cult, a threat to the truth.

So Jesus stepped in, as you can read in Acts 9, when Paul was headed to imprison more Christians.  Literally breaking out of heaven in a bright light, Jesus revealed himself to Paul, totally changing the course of Paul’s life.   In 1 Timothy 1, at the end of verse 13 Paul looks back on that momentous event when God changed his life, and Paul says he was shown mercy because he acted in ignorance and unbelief.

The word here that Paul uses to describe how much grace and faith and love God gave him is quite vivid.  The NIV uses the image of pouring, but I would argue that there is a better image.  The word is actually a compound word “over fill”.  It is the image of a cup into which a liquid is poured not just to the top, not to the brim, but overflowing.  The liquid pours out over the edges.  The container cannot contain that much!

I love that.  That’s how much grace and faith and love God gives to us!  More than we can handle.  You are the container, and God is filling you with his grace and faith and love, and he is giving you more of his goodness that you can hold!

That’s how amazing God is.

Paul continues talking about this in verse 15 where he refers to the mission of Jesus to save sinners.  Paul was the worst. Paul is using himself as an illustration of how far-reaching God’s grace is.  He was the worst of sinners.  Everyone in the early church knew this.

He was ISIS.  He was their worst enemy.  And how do you think they felt when they heard that their worst enemy supposedly changed into their strongest advocate?

No way, buddy!

How would you feel if a top ISIS leader started saying that he was now a Christian?

No one would believe him!  That’s what Paul was going through.

But the change in Paul was true, and in due time, Paul showed them that it was true.  We see clearly in Paul that Jesus has the power to save anyone and to change anyone’s life.  Even the worst of sinners.

I hear Paul saying in this passage that he was the worst of sinners, and I think “I don’t know if you were actually the worst of sinners even in your own time, Paul, but I can pretty much guarantee that with all the horrible stuff that has happened in the last 2000 years since you wrote this, you aren’t even close to the worst.”

The more I thought about it, though, the more I realized it doesn’t matter who is actually the worst sinner, or whether or not Paul was the worst sinner.  What matters is that Paul saw himself as the worst sinner.

And when you can be honest about how sinful you really are, then you start to see how amazing God’s grace and mercy are.  Christian pastor and author Tim Keller has said “We only fully grasp the gospel when we understand, as Paul did, that we are the worst sinner we know.”

I’ll never forget a sight I saw at EC National Conference a few years ago.  We were all singing praise to God, a normal part of our sessions of conference.  One particular song emphasized this theme of brokenness before God, of taking our sin seriously, and a man in the crowd, without any prodding from the worship leader, got up from his seat, walked down the aisle, and got down on his knees in front of the whole assembly.  He was clearly broken up inside about his sin.

Do we let ourselves off the hook?  I wonder if we haven’t fully grasped the Gospel because we haven’t taken our sin seriously?

And if you’re thinking “Man, Joel…this sin talk dire stuff.  Bleak.”  Get ready.  What comes next is a game changer.

In verse 16, Paul says something that many people think is crazy: God showed mercy to the worst of sinners!

God shows mercy to sinners, even to really bad sinners.  And more than that, why would God do this?  Paul says that God showed mercy to him so that Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life.

God had unlimited patience for sinners.  That is crazy talk.  Unlimited?  On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is no patience and 10 is unlimited patience, where do you rank yourself?

God is a 10.  He is the only one who is a 10.

When you realize how God is so merciful, so patient with you, even when you feel like the worst of sinners, what do you do?  You do what Paul did!

In verse 17 he bursts forth in praise: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever!”  Praise Him!  Paul is praising him as he thinks about how amazing God was to him.

This is who God is!  Paul is looking at the depths of evil that was in his heart and how God saved him.  And he bursts with praise.

Paul uses himself as an example of why we should praise the Lord.  But all of us have stories.

If God can save the worst of sinners, of course he can save the rest of us.

Paul is also an example for us in that he is sharing his story.  Likewise we should share our stories of God’s intervention in our lives.  And I’m not talking about only super dramatic stories.  Stories of God’s work in the non-dramatic moments are also amazing.  It is just as astounding for God to save us in a non-dramatic way as it is for God to break out of the clouds and save a Christian-killer like Paul.

All of us should have the words of praise found in verse 17 flooding our hearts and minds!

So if you grew up in a Christian family and you always believed in Jesus, that is just as awesome as if you didn’t grow up in a Christian family and have a more intense conversion experience.

Christians, be reminded of the grace, love and patience of God in saving you, pour out in praise, and tell the story!

Who was the worst sinner ever?

27 Jan

Image result for feeling guilty

Have you committed a sin lately?

Might be a question with an obvious answer “Yes!” because we all sin.  Sometimes I hear people say that they sin all the time. Others I’ve heard say they don’t sin much.

Whether many times a day or hardly at all, even one sin can have us feeling guilty.  And that is not a good feeling.  When I feel guilt, it is an actual feeling.  Very similar to feeling sick in the stomach.  And it is connected to my thoughts.  I feel guilty because I think I am guilty.  I have all kinds of negative thoughts about it.  Why did I do that?  What are the consequences going to be?  Will it be costly?  Painful?  Damaging to a relationship?  Damaging to my future?  Will people look down on me?  Will I be fired?  Will people hate me?  You know the thoughts.

What makes the thoughts so devastating is that they are connected to our actions.  We chose to act in a certain way that was wrong.

We chose to sin.  Sin.  We use that word, but what exactly does it mean?

Sin is when we act in a way that is wrong.  For the Christian, the determination of what is wrong is simply anything that God does not approve of.  There are sins of commission, when we do something God does not want us to do.  There are also sins of omission, when we do not do something God does want us to do.  Either way, by doing the wrong or leaving the good undone, God doesn’t approve.  That is sin.

That might make God out to be a cosmic party-pooper, as if he wants life to be miserable and hard.  But those of us who have walked with God for some time have found the opposite to be true.  The way of God Kingdom is actually in our best interest.  Sin, therefore, is an act against the way of God’s Kingdom, and not in our best interest.  This is why I urge you not to believe depictions of Jesus and the disciples as a bunch of ultra-serious bores.  Do you really believe his disciples would have given their lives to follow him, or that thousands upon thousands would have sought Jesus out if he was a terrible leader, dry, icy, and pathetic?  I bet he had them in stitches all the time.  And when you think of Jesus that as a great leader, you can also know that God is like that too.  He’s fun, good, exciting, and loves us.  And the way of his Kingdom is to help shape us into his image.

That’s why when we sin, we should take it seriously.  So again, I ask, have you sinned lately?  How do you feel about it?  Ever feel guilty about your sin?

Sometimes we sin so much, or we have a particular sin that seems to just have a grip on us.  As a result the guilt can be emotionally crippling.  We feel like the worst of sinners.  We’re good at exaggerating our impact, for good and bad.  The worst of sinners?  Probably not even close.  But we can feel pretty guilty.

As we continue our teaching series through the letter called 1st Timothy, we next meet someone who gave himself the title “the worst of sinners.”  If you had to list out the top 10 sinners in history, who would make the list?  Hitler?  Stalin?  There have been some pretty bad sinners.  So who is the worst?  Check out 1st Timothy 1:12-17 to get ready, and join us at Faith Church to learn more.